Sunday, April 22, 2018

For Everything A Season

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven."  Ecclesiastes 3:1

Winter is really hard for me.  I live in an area with a relatively mild winter climate.  Even still, when it rolls around each year, I strongly consider a move to someplace sunnier and warmer.  Somehwere that i can comfortably take a picnic on Christmas day and avoid the Seasonal Affective Disorder that I've diagnosed myself with.

While it is possible to make a geographical move and erase a yearly season from your everyday life, other seasons are unavoidable no matter where you live.  Plant a seed and it still has to grow before it becomes a tree and produces fruit.

I have a tendency to always work to improve our home, our lives, my marriage, how I parent, our diet, our schedules, routines, organization methods...the list goes on.  Improvement isn't necessarily bad.  But, sometimes I forget to consider my season.

Years ago, my mom made a wise observation about my generation (and is probably true for all generations of young adults). She said that we all start out in adulthood and expect to be at the stage our parents are in, forgetting the fact that they didn't start there.  They had to work to get to that point.  We forget to consider the season.  A newlywed couple fresh out of college can't expect to have the same financial freedom as empty nesters working in a stable long term job.
Contentment has a great deal to do with considering one's season.  If I'm striving for something inappropriate for the season I'm in, I'll never be content.  However, if I recognize where I'm at (and that it won't be this way forever), contentment will come easier.
So, here's to remembering that I'm in a season of littles, and laundry (so much laundry), diapers, toys everywhere, kids jumping on the couch, questions, and snuggles, and breastfeeding, and nurturing little hearts.  And here's to loving as many minutes as I can.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Needs vs. Wants

I always thought I had a pretty clear differentiation between needs and wants.  In a very strict sense, I do.  True needs are pretty basic.  Things that keep us alive and well.  But, since starting this challenge I've found that there are other needs that are less obvious.  For instance, when B mentioned that Rascal never seems to have any shirts in his drawer, I was torn about what to do.  Another shirt or two would make life a little easier, but was that really a need?  He HAS shirts.  I just have a hard time keeping up with laundry.  However, if the child doesn't have a clean shirt in his drawer when it's time to get dressed, this is sort of a need.  I'm realizing that I have a harder time distinguishing needs vs. wants when it comes to my kids.  It's easier to say no to things for myself.  In the end, Rascal got one new shirt because Monkey got new cleats for baseball and Rascal didn't get any, so he got a shirt instead.

Our trip to Disney was pretty easy as far as buying goes.  I got myself one practical souvenir (a stainless water bottle).  Each of the kids had a set amount of money to spend, which made it easier for me to not buy them lots of stuff or overspend in the name of "vacation".

More noteable, in my opinion, is my separation from social media.  In the first few days, I found myself reaching for my phone in times of boredom, only to realize that my phone is pretty boring without Facebook or Instagram to stare at mindlessly.  It made me anxious, at first.  But now, I feel like I'm more present and less anxious, overall.  I use my phone to work on a project (currently I have some photo projects going on), play a game (which seems to draw me into a different world much less), or I just set my phone down and read or soak in the moment and stare at my cute kids doing their cute things.  This is something that's been on my mind a lot over the past several months, so I'm sure there will be a whole post on this, soon.

I stuck to the same verse for 2 weeks so that I could think on it more and have a better opportunity to talk to my kids about it.  I like talking to Monkey about things like that.  He seems to soak it in and always surprises me with his questions.

For the next week or two I'll focus on this verse:

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven."  Ecclesiastes 3:1

Saturday, March 31, 2018

My Contentment Challenge

 "...for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have." Philippians 4:11

Tomorrow is April 1, and I am embarking on a 3 month Contentment Challenge.  I am structuring it around Nancy Ray's Contentment Challenge from 2013, but am making some adjustments to better fit me.  You can read about Nancy Ray's Contentment Challenge here and here.

Here is what I plan to do for my Contentment Challenge:

  • No shopping for extras:  I don't tend to shop a lot for clothes or goodies for myself.  But I do buy lots of little extras in the form of organizational items that I "need" for one thing or the other, clothes or doo-dads for the kids, baskets or rugs or table cloths or blankets.  Basically, all the things you don't go into Target for, but leave with anyway.
  • Gifts are OK-with discretion.  I do a lot of my extra purchasing in the way of gifts.  I buy things for the kids they don't need (see above), but I'm really bad at buying things for a gift "at some point," often with no specific recipient or occasion in mind.  So, for these 3 months I will only buy gifts for specific occasions happening in the near future.
  • Avoid window shopping unless its for specific goal or gift items.
  • Exceptions: 
    • We are going to Disney World during this challenge.  While I don't intend to go crazy, I'm simply not going to say no to a few souvenirs for the family.
    • Babies R Us/Toys R Us is going out of business, and I have some gift cards/reward points to use.  I'm going to do that and if there are any insane deals on things we can actually use or even save for birthdays/Christmas/etc., we may get a few things for that, as well.
  • No social media.  Nancy Ray's challenge is basically about purchasing things.  But, I think a lot of discontent comes from the constant comparisons we make while mindlessly scrolling through our social media.  I'm going to stay off of my personal social media accounts in favor of real connections and actual conversations.
  • Scripture: I plan to choose a scripture each week to focus on and hopefully even discuss with my kids.
I hope to blog through my journey each week, so check back.  I'm going to aim for Sunday posts.

And last but not least, GRACE.  I have a lot  going on, so if I don't get to my weekly posts or forget to choose a new scripture or something, I'm not going to beat myself up over it.

The verse for my first week is Phillipians 4:11 "...for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have."

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Love Your Enemies, Love Your Self

6-year old ninja cake, because...duh

"So what would you do if there was a boy who was mean to you, but then there was a really bad guy trying to hurt him, what would you do?"  I asked my 6 year old who just professed that he wants to be a ninja when he grows up so that he can save the good people from the bad people. 

"I would save him too." (This is the answer I was hoping for. Love your enemies, right?)

"You would?  Why?"  And he told me how he would still want to save him.  And we talked about how it's important to be nice to people, even if they are not nice to us.

Then my mind shifted suddenly to a Facebook post I had just read about a single mom and her daughter being watched and followed by several men at my local Walmart, likely trying to target someone into human trafficking.  I've read several posts like this, lately.  The parents are walking through the store and someone seemingly innocent stops to talk to the child, or to the parent while others stay nearby hoping for the parent to become distracted. 

Honestly, I often feel scared reading these.  Sick to my stomach.  And I often finish reading it and try to shake off the feeling and tell myself I should stop reading stuff like that.  It's hard to be in a world where you need to be informed, but also need to not become agoraphobic for fear of what is outside your front door. But after reading this particular post, something struck me.  We are often taught to be kind and polite (which is important), but are not often taught to be strong and confident and stand up for ourselves.  Sometimes I allow things that make me a little bit uncomfortable, because I don't want to offend someone.  But honestly, if I don't want the strange lady in the line at Bruster's to pinch my son's cheeks, (because I want him to know that he has the right to say no to unwanted touch), well, then I should feel OK asking her not to touch him.

I remember several years ago we were playing at McDonald's and a little girl kept trying to play with Monkey.  He kept running to me at the table crying, but wouldn't tell me what was wrong.  So I watched her very carefully to see what was going on.  I finally got it out of him.  She kept calling him "baby".  She looked to be about a year or two older than him, so I'm sure she just thought he was cute, and was trying to be sweet.  But he was taking great offense to this, as he was a Big Boy.  And so I told him that he could tell her to stop calling him that.  And he responded with concern in his eyes "But that's not nice."  And I knew right then, that we needed to teach our children to be kind, yes, but not at the expense of standing up for themselves.

 My little Ninja Turtles
We've worked through this theme with our kids in the years since.  "If someone hurts you, use your words and say 'Don't do that, that hurts me.' Or 'I don't like it when you do that.'"  And we teach them that if the person continues doing it, they are allowed to take further action. Stop playing with the child, tell a grown-up, or by golly, if that kid is hurting my child, I am OK if they push them away or hit them back.  Even Jesus yelled and threw over tables when it was called for.

So my mind shifted to this thought I had had just the day before.  Why are we taught to be kind and polite, but not to stand up for ourselves?  Are we taught to be kind at the expense of our safety? "It's always good to be kind to other people, even if they aren't nice to us, as long as we are safe." I told Monkey.  And we talked some more about being nice and also being safe

"I know" he said to me, "that's what I said."  <---I love this kid.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Gaining Focus

I set my phone down and the world came back into focus.  The sun shining through the windows, car seats on either side of me, my sweet baby in my arms.  I was sitting on the floor of my van nursing my precious 5 week old, because, well that's just how I do things.  I looked up and realized that I'd been mindlessly scrolling on my phone and not giving mind to the things right in front of me.  I tend to pick up my phone when I'm nursing, because it feels like wasted time.  I'm stuck in a chair, or in the bed, or on the floor of my van and I can't really do much else.  So I Christmas shop, or get on Facebook, or play a game.  When all the while, a cute little baby is snuggled up next to me.  And not just any cute baby.  MY cute baby.  My LAST baby. And I'm already grieving the time passed. The squishy snuggles I will no longer have, all too soon. The sweet baby clothes that I am no longer storing in the basement when he grows out of them, like I've always done in the past.
I had put down my phone because he had stopped eating, and it was time to switch him to the other side. But once my surroundings came into focus, so did a lot more. I looked down at my baby, happily eating and looking right up at me. Asking to have a conversation with me between his little eyes and mine. I am the center of his world right now and he is asking to be the center of mine. And while he can't be all the time (I do have 2 other kids that I love fiercely), I could probably give him this time. After all, pretty soon he will be eating mac and cheese and daddy is gonna be way cooler than me, anyway.

 Whether you are a believer or not, what is blinding your mind so that you cannot see what is important?

"The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." 2 Corinthians 4:4

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Playing for Change

Things were getting pretty hard. I couldn't understand why my home felt so out of control.  My temper was short and it seemed like my kids were simply insane. What was wrong with them?!  Why wouldn't they just chill out and do what I asked?  I truly thought something was wrong with my 4 year old.  I had worked with a classroom full of four year olds and his behavior did not seem typical. And why was he so anxious all the time?

Then one day it just kind of clicked. There was nothing wrong with my children. There was something wrong with ME!  I had checked out. I had a very short fuse, was incredibly irritable, and even the smallest thing would set me off.  I had my face buried in my phone or my mind occupied with a never ending to-do list of things that were not important.  My kid was anxious because I was always raising my voice at him. My children were acting insane because they needed my attention. Somehow, in my quest for the perfect life, I was ruining ours.

So I set out to make small steps for positive change inside the four walls that were meant to nurture my children (and not to control them). One very important step was to put aside my distractions and PLAY with my children.  I can't even tell you the difference that this one change has made. Not only are my kids getting attention, but I'm more patient when I am more present. Plus, it's fun to play Legos and Go Fish! 🙃

Monday, October 12, 2015

What Matters Most

I finished up my maternity leave about two months ago, and went back to work.  I was having a really rough time with it, and so I wrote myself a little letter.  I'm reading it again, today, to remind myself that being a stay-at-home mom isn't the only way I can be a GOOD mom.  If life isn't exactly how you planned, and "perfect" just doesn't seem to be working out, I highly suggest sitting down and writing out the important outcomes you want and you may realize that they can still be achieved (and possibly already are).

Dear Nicole,

I know you are about to go back to work and your maternity leave is ending.  I know this is breaking your heart, because you so desperately want to be home with your children and serving your family from home.  I know that it is no fun to have to go back to work. 

I want you to remember that you don't have to stay at home to bless your family.  By going back to work, you can be a blessing in so many ways.  The most obvious way is financially.  This is a blessing to your husband as he transitions to a new career.  You are taking some pressure off of him to be the sole provider while he is starting out.  You are helping your whole family by easing the stress of making ends meet.

You going to work also allows your chilren to grow in their relationships with other caregivers, namely, their grandparents.  This is quite a blessing for them to have a relationship with their grandparents. 

You are blessing yourself by spending time doing work you enjoy and are good at.  And, in turn, this blesses your home by giving you a "break" from your home, in order to enjoy it well while you are there.

And while, of course, I hope you are soon able to stay home with your children, please know that you are not wasting away their childhoods by having to work.  You are still their mom and can still enrich their lives in so many ways.

Remember your list of "What Matters Most."  Each of these things can still be attained whether you are working or staying home.  So when you are feeling discouraged because you feel like the important things are being overlooked, remember what the important things are.  Remember your list:

What Matters Most
  • My children are loved
  • My children are healthy
  • My children are confident
  • Our home is joyful
  • We seek God
  • We love others
  • Our basic needs are met
  • We have quality time with each other and with those we love

Good luck as you return to work, and try not to be discouraged.